Divine Paradox at King’s Chapel: the Puritan – British Disputes & Role Reversals

King’s Chapel

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It is universally acknowledged that the Puritans who founded Boston in 1630 left England fleeing religious persecution from the Anglican Church majority (Anglican was England’s official state religion). But the religious freedom they sought was self-centered; they did not seek universal religious tolerance, but rather freedom to practice their own brand of Protestantism (which became Congregationalism), and to build a closed religious-political society around it. Nowhere was this more visibly noted than in US President William Howard Taft’s 1909 address, where he said “We speak with great satisfaction of the fact that our ancestors – and I claim New England ancestry – came to this country in order to establish freedom of religion,” declared Taft. “Well, if you are going to be exact, they came to this country to establish freedom of their religion, and not the freedom of anybody else’s religion.”

In Puritan New England, citizens had to conform to the Puritan religion and rules, or they were at best second class citizens. Those who did not accept the constraints were prosecuted, often ruthlessly. Roger Williams (in 1635) and Anne Hutchinson (in 1638) were both banished over what today would be considered trivial infractions, but at the time were considered heretical. Later, the Puritans tried to peaceably drive out the Quakers, but when peaceable means failed, whipping and execution followed. Catholics were treated little better and were universally hated and harangued. Only members of the Puritan church could hold office, vote, or even own property. And, the Puritans ability to operate in this manner – largely free from normal English oversight and freedoms – was guaranteed by a unique Royal Charter which gave them significantly more autonomy than was enjoyed by other English colonies.

But, the most intriguing conflict was between the Puritans and their Anglican fellow Englishmen. Even though they professed loyalty to the Crown, the Puritans despised the Anglicans, resisted their involvement in New England’s political affairs, and actively fought the establishment of Anglican houses of worship. One of the key issues was that the Anglican form of Protestantism was much closer to the hierarchical ornateness and ceremony of Catholicism than the ascetic, Calvinistic Congregationalism, the defining standard of Puritan society. Even though Puritan government was open only to Church members, it had a representative assembly and established the Town Meeting management process, with relative autonomy and decision authority given to the local church and town.  This is a sharp contrast to the hierarchical British Royal/Parliamentary system, where power was held centrally. The Puritan New Englanders did their best to avoid English meddling or oversight for as long as possible; and they managed to do this for almost fifty five years.

No place in historic Boston does the Puritan:Anglican struggle better play out than with King’s Chapel, the first official Anglican congregation in Boston (King’s Chapel is Stop 4 on Boston’s Freedom Trail and can be visited on the corner of Tremont and School Streets).  Anglicans were present in Boston from the beginning, but they were second class citizens without many rights. As early as 1646, Anglican Dr. Robert Child and several others sent a “Remonstrance and Petition” to the Massachusetts General Court, claiming among other things, that they were not free to pursue their religion. In response, the Court admonished and fined them – e.g., their request was summarily rejected. In 1662, a letter from King Charles II to the colony was direct in requiring that “the freedom and liberty should be duly and allowed to all such as desired to use the Book of Common Prayer, and perform the devotions in the manner established in England, and that they might not undergo any prejudice and disadvantage…” The King’s letter was ignored. In a 1664 follow-up, Royal commissioners were sent to Boston to see that the King’s instructions were followed. This delegation also was ignored and King Charles became too involved with issues in Europe to pursue it further.

Finally, in 1676, to follow-up on multiple complaints, King Charles sent Edward Randolph to Massachusetts to investigate. His reports to the King and key ministers clearly noted, along with many other issues, the religious persecution of Anglicans, and included a discussion of British subjects being put to death for religious reasons and the Puritan laws against the celebration of Christmas. Randolph’s campaign against New England ultimately led to the revocation of the Massachusetts Charter in 1684, and the installation of Sir Edmund Andros as Governor in 1686.

King’s Chapel was officially established by the authority of the Lord Bishop of London in mid-1686. The first public service was conducted at the Boston Town House (the precursor of the Old State House) in June, and the official “King’s Chapel” congregation was established soon thereafter. But, the congregation did not have a chapel, and use of the Town House was inappropriate. The same day as his arrival in Boston in December of 1686, Governor Andros started aggressive steps to find a suitable place for worship. Rebuffed by peaceable requests to share space in one of the Puritan meeting houses, in March Andros demanded the keys to Old South Meeting House and commandeered the building for Anglican services – from this point, the building would be shared by both congregations, with priority going to the Anglicans. His requests for land on which to build an Anglican Chapel rebuffed, Andros sized a portion of the town’s burying ground, had the bodies moved, and a Chapel started. The original wooden King’s Chapel was ready in 1689, and the Old South congregation returned to their normal service schedule.

The current granite chapel was started in 1749 when the original became too small. The new chapel was built around the old wooden one so as not to disturb the services. But more importantly, Puritan and Bostonian law also indicated that if the walls were knocked down, the land would revert back to Puritans control. When the new chapel was finished, the old one was dismantled and tossed out through the windows, boxed up and sent to Halifax, where it was reassembled. The new chapel opened for services in 1754.

King’s Chapel Interior

Far more opulent than austere Congregationalist meeting houses, King’s Chapel was the recipient of many lavish gifts from the British monarchy. King William III and Queen Mary II (1689 – 1702) sent money, communion silver, altar cloths, carpets and cushions. Queen Anne (1702 – 1714) gave vestments and red cushions. King George III (1760 – 1820) donated more silver communion pieces. The silver pieces vanished when over half of the parishioners fled (they were Royalists) when the British left after the Siege of Boston was lifted in 1776.

As the first Anglican foothold in Boston, King’s Chapel presents a number of fascinating and almost poetic paradoxes relating to the Puritan:Anglican conflict. George Washington attended two services at the Chapel: the first in 1753 when he was a British Colonel and guest of Royal Governor Shirley, and second when he was President of the United States in 1789 – he sat in the “Governor’s Pew”. As a replacement for some of the silver that vanished in 1776, Paul Revere crafted several new silver pieces for the congregation as thanks for King’s Chapel hosting the belated funeral for Doctor/General Joseph Warren in April of 1776; Warren died at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June of 1775. Finally, and to come full circle, King’s Chapel became the temporary home for the Old South Meeting House congregation, whose meeting house was undergoing repairs; Old South had been so emblematic of the Patriot cause that during the Siege of Boston, the British ripped out the pews and pulpit, used them for fuel and turned the vacant meeting house into a stable and riding school for British cavalry. The Old South Congregation held services at King’s Chapel for five years, much longer than the King’s Chapel parishioners had held the keys to Old South.

In 1782 the remaining Chapel’s parishioners (there were many Anglicans who were Patriots, not Loyalists) resumed regular services; and in 1787, the first Anglican church in Massachusetts became the first Unitarian church in America. Today, the Church is an independent congregation affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association (which in New England was largely an outgrowth of Congregationalism), but offers a unique liturgy that combines Unitarianism with Anglican traditions. Perhaps this now represents the fitting marriage of Puritan and Anglican traditions and cultures. Huzzah, or perhaps Hurray!

 

High-Resolution Photos from Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide

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One of the great frustrations in publishing an eBook is that the publisher is megabyte constrained – e.g., there is an incentive to keep eBooks small.

High resolution photos use up a lot of megs.  So, to keep things small, the photos in the eBook are either 800 x 600 or 640 x 480 and have been compressed. They are illustrative and fine for an eReader, tablet or phone, but this resolution does not do them justice as photographs.

The gallery below contains the photos used in the “Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide – Tips, Secrets & Tricks” eBook in 2048 x 1536 format compressed to +/- .5 meg each.  I’ve also include a few pictures that simply did not fit or that are representative of what you will see on and around the Freedom Trail. If anyone is interested in one in native format, 4000 x 3000 +/- 5 meg each, email me and we’ll figure something out.

Warmest regards,

Steve

King’s Chapel Burying Ground – Freedom Trail Stop 5a Overview

King's Chapel Burying Ground

King’s Chapel Burying Ground

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Oldest Burying Ground in Boston

King’s Chapel Burying Ground is the final resting place for Boston’s earliest settlers including the family of William Dawes (the other rider on Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride) and John Winthrop (the Puritan leader at the founding of Boston in 1630 and the first governor).

Free

Open daily 9 – 5

617-635-4505617-635-4505

Plan about 10 minutes to walk through

Background Information

King’s Chapel Burying Ground is Boston’s oldest. It was originally the vegetable garden of Sir Isaac Johnson, which also extended to the area surrounding Old City Hall (just behind the Chapel and Burying Ground). Sir Isaac died within a year of his arrival in Boston and was buried in the garden. It has no association with King’s Chapel, which was not built until 50 years after the Burying Ground was established.

There are many more people buried here than the headstones suggest – often they are buried four deep and sometimes standing up. Also, as with the other early Burying Grounds, the headstones have been moved into more orderly rows, so a headstone may not represent the actual burial site.

The burying ground was full by 1660, which means that none of the famous Revolutionary-era personalities are buried here.

Winthrop Memorial

Winthrop Memorial

There are, however, many internees who played important roles in Boston’s history. The most historically significant is the memorial for John Winthrop (1587 – 1649), who is buried along with his family. Winthrop was the leading figure in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (the trading company that owned the rights to the Massachusetts settlements). He led the Puritans’’ 1630 migration from England that led to Boston’s founding, and he was the first (and a twelve term) governor.

The oldest headstone here, and the oldest remaining in Boston, belongs to William Paddy, who died in 1658. The most famous stone, located just inside the entry gate, is that of Joseph Tapping, who died in 1678. Tapping’s headstone shows Father Time battling with a skeleton over the eventuality of death. Many consider this to be among the most beautiful in Boston.

You will also find the graves of Mary Chilton, who, according to legend, was the first Pilgrim to touch land in America., the family of William Dawes (the “other” rider on Paul Revere’s Ride), and Elizabeth Pain, who inspired Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”

The ventilator shaft on the right side of the Burying Ground, close to King’s Chapel, dates from 1898. It is a relic of the first subway system built in America.

 

King’s Chapel – Freedom Trail Stop 5 Overview

King's Chapel - Freedom Trail Stop 5 - 1754

King’s Chapel – Freedom Trail Stop 5

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First Anglican Church in Boston

This church, built in 1754, was built around the original 1689 building so as not to disturb services. When completed, the original church was broken up and removed through the windows.

Free, but there is a charge for the Bell & Bones tour (recommended). Wonderful 35 minute music recitals on Tuesday at 12:15, suggested donation $3.

Summer: Mon, Thu, Fri. Sat. 10-3*; Tues,Wed 10-11:00, 1-3* Last entry occurs 15 minutes prior to close. Please check as the church may be closed due to scheduled or unscheduled services or inclement weather.

*Open until 4pm Memorial Day through Labor Day

Official website

617-227-2155617-227-2155

Handicap access: there is a 2.5″ sill at the entrance, otherwise the building is accessible.

Public Transportation: Red or Green lines to the Park Street Station. Alternative, take the Red or Green lines to Government Center.

Plan 15 minutes to walk through.

Background Information

Boston’s Puritan population was successful in resisting the establishment of a Church of England chapel for many years. Finally, when King James II came to power in 1685, he ordered the new Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, to establish one. Andros took charge soon after his arrival in 1686.

First, Andros had to find space for the Anglican congregation to hold services. Finding the Puritans unwilling to share meeting house space, he demanded the keys to Old South Meeting House. The Old South congregation then had to wait outside on Sundays until the Anglican services were finished before they could hold their own services.

As the Puritans were unwilling to sell land for an Anglican chapel, Andros seized the land from a corner of the town’s burying ground by eminent domain. The original wooden King’s Chapel was ready in 1689, and the Old South congregation finally returned to their normal service schedule.

The current granite chapel was started in 1749 when the original became too small. The new chapel was actually built around the old wooden one so as not to disturb the services. When the new chapel was finished, the old one was dismantled and tossed out through the windows. It opened for services in 1754.

As the first Anglican Church (Church of England) in Boston, it wasrecipient of many lavish gifts from the British monarchy. King William III and Queen Mary II (1689 – 1702) sent money, communion silver, altar cloths, carpets and cushions. Queen Anne (1702 – 1714) gave vestments and red cushions. King George III (1760 – 1820) donated more silver communion pieces. The silver pieces vanished when half of the parishioners fled (they were Royalists) when the British left Boston after the Siege of Boston was lifted in 1776.

The chapel was designed by America’s first professionally trained architect, Peter Harrison. Interestingly, Harrison never saw the building or even its location. The congregation provided the requirements by letter and Harrison sent back completed plans. He worked strictly out of his Newport R.I office.

King's Chapel Interior

King’s Chapel Interior

The chapel still contains many original details. The communion table was built in 1686. The box pews are original as are the hand-carved Corinthian columns. The Wineglass pulpit dates from 1717 and is the oldest pulpit in continuous use on the same site in America. The organ is a replica of the original 1713 instrument, which was the first organ to be permanently installed in any church in British America.

In 1785, the congregation adopted a new theology and became the first Unitarian church in America, some 40 years before the Unitarian church became a formal body. Today the church iscombination of Unitarian with some liturgy adopted from Anglican Book of Common Prayers.

For an additional blog posting on King’s Chapel, click here.